App icons above the Supreme Court.
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

The Supreme Court steps in

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Good morning! The Supreme Court finally weighed in on the Texas law that would hit social media companies, and Meta execs are probably breathing huge sighs of relief. Meanwhile, "buy now, pay later" might not just be another pandemic ecommerce trend if a big Stripe move is any indication. Happy hump day — let’s dive in.

A 'censorship' showdown

The Supreme Court decided not to let Texas do whatever it wants when it comes to regulating social media companies. The court on Tuesday blocked HB 20, a state law that allows users of social media platforms to sue those companies if they feel they’re being censored.

Companies can continue to moderate their platforms as they see fit in Texas. HB 20 would force social media platforms to carry all viewpoints, which legal experts have said actually violates free speech protections for private actors.

  • The law — which was previously paused by an injunction then allowed to proceed by a 5th Circuit court — was appealed by tech industry groups who argued that it would force social media platforms to carry extremist content and propaganda.
  • Chief Justice John Roberts joined with Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer to block the law.
  • “We are encouraged that this attack on First Amendment rights has been halted until a court can fully evaluate the repercussions,” CCIA president Matt Schruers said in a statement.

But the Supreme Court ruling isn’t the end. Social media companies are still facing a similar law in Florida, which was blocked from taking effect by the 11th Circuit. The conflicting circuit rulings looked like they were poised to set up a Supreme Court showdown — and that’s still possible.

  • In their dissent, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch wrote that they weren’t sure how "existing precedents, which predate the age of the internet, should apply to large social media companies."
  • Thomas has previously said he believes social media platforms should be regulated like common carriers instead of as publishers of content with editorial discretion, as newspapers are. That was also the thrust of HB 20.
  • “This application concerns issues of great importance that will plainly merit this court’s review,” Justice Alito wrote. “Social media platforms have transformed the way people communicate with each other and obtain news. At issue is a groundbreaking Texas law that addresses the power of dominant social media corporations to shape public discussion of the important issues of the day.”

In other words: This ain’t over. Not by a long shot.

Caitlin McGarry (email | twitter)

'Buy now, pay later' gets a lift

"Buy now, pay later" may have seemed like a passing fad that hit its peak last year, but if Affirm’s new partnership with Stripe is any indication BNPL could really be here to stay. Customers who use Stripe can now split the cost of purchases ranging from $50- to $30,000 across multiple payments with Affirm.

Stripe is a big get for Affirm. The payments company works with millions of high-profile merchants, which will put Affirm’s BNPL service in front of millions more customers.

  • Stripe hasn’t disclosed its exact number of customers, though some of its partners include Amazon, Postmates and Wayfair.
  • Affirm’s share price has plunged from a peak of more than $160 in November to around $28 today, so a partnership of this magnitude may be crucial for a comeback.
  • “It's great that Affirm was able to tie up with a company like Stripe,” Dean Kim, head of equity research at William O’Neil and Co., told Protocol. “They're working with both small and large companies to provide payment processing technologies, and Affirm is a way for Stripe to give their customers further value add.”

Payments companies and BNPL services have been getting cozy for a while. Stripe started partnering with BNPL service Klarna last October. In November, payments giant Block (formerly Square) bought Afterpay for $29 billion, allowing Square merchants to integrate Afterpay’s service.

  • Stripe’s decision to partner with multiple BNPL services is a good strategy. Affirm is used by merchants who sell more expensive goods, Kim said, whereas Klarna is more commonly used on smaller purchases. Klarna’s major partnerships are with sellers abroad, while Affirm is more widely used by U.S.-based merchants.
  • And just like Block partnered with Afterpay before buying it outright, the Stripe-Affirm relationship may signal something bigger. “I’m kind of wondering in the back of my mind if they are thinking about acquiring Affirm down the road,” Kim said.

So is BNPL here to stay after all? Not necessarily. “If the economy slows down to a point where consumers feel the pinch … all of these players are going to be impacted,” Kim said. Buyers who need goods might turn to BNPL as a last resort in the event of a recession, but otherwise those services — along with plenty of other businesses — would feel the hurt.

— Nat Rubio-Licht (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM QUALCOMM

There are three things that companies need to know when it comes to setting climate goals. The first thing I would say is that if you're going to set a climate goal as a business, it needs to be a businesswide effort. It cannot live within just the corporate responsibility or the sustainability team as it often does.

Learn more

People are talking

Foxconn’s Young Liu said lockdowns in China didn’t hit the iPhone supplier that hard:

  • "The overall lockdown impact on Foxconn is rather limited.”

Dogecoin’s Jackson Palmer doesn’t have much faith in Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover:

  • “The second I heard he was going to make a bid, I thought that he intended to destroy Twitter.”
Slack just officially launched in India, but Stewart Butterfield wants workers to remember the digital HQ comes first:
  • "The digital HQ is more important than the physical HQ. And it has many advantages."

Making moves

Drew Pusateri is Cruise's new head of trust and safety and strategic comms. He last worked on policy comms for Meta.

Patrick Malone joined Amazon's PR team. He last worked for Rep. Jim Himes as deputy chief of staff and comms director.

Brian Hook is Mason’s new CTO. Hook’s held several leadership roles at Meta, most recently serving as its senior head of Engineering for Facebook app commerce and marketplace.

Brandon Wiebe is Transcend’s new legal chief and head of privacy. Wiebe is Twilio’s former lead product counsel.

In other news

Meta's changing its ticker to "META" beginning June 9.

Fidelity Investments slashed valuations of major tech companies. The firm marked down stakes in Reddit by more than a third, and Stripe by 13%, as well as cutting valuations for ByteDance and Instacart.

Apple's moving some iPad production from China to Vietnam for the first time ever. Tight COVID lockdowns in Shanghai got the best of Apple, Nikkei Asia reported.

Employees want Salesforce to cut ties with the NRA, but the company hasn’t yet responded.

Fidelity's also getting serious about crypto hiring. Its digital assets arm wants to hire over 100 new roles across client service, tech and operations.

BT and Ericsson will offer private 5G networks to businesses in Britain as part of a multimillion-pound partnership.

Microsoft’s Verified ID service is getting ready for launch. It’ll start rolling out in August and will reach the mainstream over the next few years.

Josh Wardle made the Times’ list of most influential people. Wordle for the win!

Your hour of fun for today: Bo Burnham released a new song about Jeff Bezos as part of a new video with outtakes from his Netflix special “Inside.”

Finding new hires on Slack

You might be able to find potential hires on Twitter. It’s fairly easy to solicit applications on LinkedIn. But Slack is increasingly where hiring is happening, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Employers have found Slack to be a faster, more efficient tool for prospective employees and bosses to find one another. You just need to find a networking channel, join it and let the conversations go from there. What are you waiting for?

A MESSAGE FROM QUALCOMM

Once a company understands its sustainability baseline, it is important to identify areas that the company can feasibly make more sustainable, and then address those areas. Implementing technology that improves connectivity and provides greater insight into operations will prove to be the solution for many companies.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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